The Yogic View of Consciousness 30: The Ingredients of Samadhi


YVC 30 cover-1There are natural experiences that resemble various facets of samadhi. Some of these happen when we are awake, others happen when we sleep. We consider these here and construct an ingredients list for samadhi.

Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:

Intro Ch 1 Ch 2 Ch 3 Ch 4 Ch 5 Ch 6 Ch7 Ch 8
Ch 9 Ch 10 Ch 11 Ch 12 Ch 13 Ch 14 Ch 15 Ch 16 Ch 17
Ch 18 Ch 19 Ch 20 Ch 21 Ch 22 Ch 23 Ch 24 Ch 25 Ch 26
Ch 27 Ch 28 Ch 29 Ch 30 Ch 31 Ch 32 Ch 33


Last time we presented a list of the characteristics of samadhi. Here is a summary table of those characteristics:

Fig 30-0

Can we find examples of anything that capture any of these characteristics? Yes we can. The idea is the following. All methods and techniques humans do, including samadhi, must grow from natural abilities we all possess. For example, all skill in sports or music derives from the fact that we have limbs with muscles that we can move. All art stems from the fact that we possess imagination, symbolic capabilities, and can use tools. We’ve discussed how yoga arose from ritual magic. We want to further dissect this line of thinking. There must be natural activities we humans do that provide the ingredients of samadhi.

Before starting, I want to make clear to the Reader that I will not answer these questions with any kind of final certitude. I don’t want the Reader to have unrealistic expectations. Instead, what I hope to accomplish is to open doors, to raise questions, and present tentative answers. This book will necessarily end open-ended. Nonetheless, hopefully some fresh ideas will be laid along the way.

We want to take what we know about the range of human abilities and see if there are phenomena that might serve as ingredients of samadhi. We begin with the well‑known facts that we move through three different brain states: waking, REM, and non-REM sleep. Every human’s brain goes through these states. Even ancient Hindu sources like the Yoga Sutras recognized these states in terms of waking (jagrat), dreaming (svapna), and deep (non-dreaming) sleep (susupti).  We will use these three states, just like the ancient Indians did, to organize our thinking.

There are various psychological behaviors or states, some considered normal and some considered pathological, that correspond to items on our samadhi list above. We consider just two here: projection and depersonalization. Both of these could serve as ingredients of samadhi.

This relates to Item 3 on the list above: fusion of observer and observed.

Freud described the psychological process of projection. It means to dissociate, in one’s thoughts, a part of one’s self and apply it to something else. It is a form of delusional thinking. To quote Wikipedia:

Freud considered that, in projection, thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone [or something -Don] else.”

We are not interested in projection per se, but its opposite: the ability to take something that is not oneself and identify with it, the process of identification, which was also identified by Freud.  Again from the Wiki-thingy:

“Identification is a psychological process whereby the subject assimilates an aspect, property, or attribute of the other and is transformed, wholly or partially, by the model the other provides. It is by means of a series of identifications that the personality is constituted and specified. The roots of the concept can be found in Freud’s writings.”

If one can project away an aspect of one’s self, one can also do the opposite and include something that is not part of the self-image of most people. I spoke in Chapter 23 about the link between ritual magic and the origins of Raja Yoga. In ritual magic, the person performing the ritual strongly identifies with the object of the ritual.

That we humans have the ability to identify with things that can be considered not-self seems to be a primitive ingredient underlying samadhi.  By primitive I mean two things: (1) that it probably does not play a major role in real samadhi, but instead serves as a “root” property that other ingredients are based on, and (2) it is “weak” in the sense that it only refers to thoughts in one’s mind.

With respect to the first qualifier, we could look at the connection between having muscles in general, and using them to become a master pianist. Muscle control is a substrate of one aspect of being a master pianist. Similarly, the human ability to identify with things is a primitive substrate that could lead to more complex behaviors used in samadhi.

With the second qualifier, projection and identification are acts of imagination that occur in thought. Even though identification is “only” thoughts in one’s mind, if the identification is strong enough, it can affect how one acts towards the object of identification. This was Freud’s point after all.

I note only briefly, because it is a topic much discussed in yoga literature, that identification is taught as a practical matter for beginner yogis. Here is a typical example from Swami Krishnananda:

“The fixing of the mind on the point also implies the choosing of the point. What is the point on which we are concentrating? We have the traditional concept of the ishta devata, a term designating the nature of the object of meditation, which gives a clue as to what sort of object it should be. It should be ishta and it should be our devata. Only then we can allow the mind to move towards it entirely. We must worship that object as our god or goddess, our deity, our alter-ego, our centre of affection, our love, our everything; that should be the object.”

The instruction is to choose an object of meditation, a pratyaya, with which one will completely identify. One is to imagine something of intense desire, an object that one would literally want to become one with. This is the beginning of what will eventually become the fusion of the self with the pratyaya in more advanced stages. It begins with the psychological property of identification.

This relates to items 1 and 3 above: (1) samadhi occurs in an altered state devoid of a body and personality, and (3) fusion of observer and observed.

Let’s again start by quoting Wikipedia:

“…depersonalization is an anomaly of self-awareness. It can consist of a reality or detachment within the self, regarding one’s mind or body, or being a detached observer of oneself.”

As you see, it is considered an “anomaly”. Calling it such is a purely subjective judgement. Sometimes it is anomalous, sometimes not. That’s not the point. The point is that the phenomenon of depersonalization relates to item 1 on the samadhi list above: awareness operating independent of the usual mind-body complex.

Unlike projection/identification, which are forms of thinking, depersonalization is an altered form of perception. As such, depersonalization is much stronger in its effects on behavior.

Depersonalization overlaps with sleep and dreaming, which is discussed below. Depersonalization can also occur during waking. It can happen with forms of brain damage (which is certainly anomalous) or when on certain drugs (the anomaly of which is a judgement call). What happens is that elements of one’s mind or body that are normally considered parts of the self instead become perceived as “the other”.

A fine example of pathological depersonalization is hemi-neglect syndrome. Again to quote Wikipedia: people with hemi-neglect syndrome “may also present as a delusional form, where the patient denies ownership of a limb or an entire side of the body.” This is not a delusion of thinking, however, it is an alteration in perception. Just ask a neurologist. If the left side of the patient’s body is paralyzed and the doctor holds up the patient’s left hand and arm and shows it to the patient, the patient will deny it is their arm and hand. There is a change in the patient’s perception that depersonalizes them from a part of their own body. In hemi-neglect, the explanation is reasonably straight-forward: the person’s brain has been cut off from sensing and moving the arm, and therefore the arm is no longer part of the self and acts like the other to the unfortunate brain-injured person.

As with projection, we can consider the phenomenon opposite to depersonalization. I don’t know if there is a term for this phenomena, so I will refer to it as “the opposite-of‑depersonalization”. If depersonalization is the perception that a part of you (your body, for example) is not a part of you, then the opposite experience is that things that normally are perceived not to be a part of you are perceived to literally become a part of you.

The psychedelic plant Salvia divinorum is well-known for creating the opposite‑of‑depersonalization experiences. In these cases, people literally perceive themselves as inanimate objects: they become the objects. Here are a few examples culled from the Internet:

“I had smoked Salvia … seconds later I became part of the wall I was sitting in front of. As this happened I realized with intense conviction (I was more sure of it than I am of me typing this now) that this is how things have always been” (from here)

Here is a whole message board of these types of experiences. I quote just a couple of them:

“I was the side of a truck once… Another time I was the letter F.”

“I became the molecule of a piece of text that was on a juice box, a laughing puzzle piece with a face, and the underside of a Mickey Mouse style character’s foot. This was all in one trip. I hate salvia.”

“I became a basketball…”

Here is the famous drug explorer Terence McKenna from the book Shamanic Quests for the Spirit of Salvia:

“All of my humanity was slipping away. I was a bedspread and always had been. I abandoned the attempt to be anything else and become just an item in the room with no thoughts or judgments.” (quote from here).

I use the Salvia reports as examples because, as you can see, they result in extreme changes in perception of the self where the people literally become the inanimate objects. Again, these are not mere imaginings in the person’s thoughts, but are actual changes in perception. The fact that this phenomenon can occur can be seen as proof that people can identify, as a perceptual phenomenon, with something other than the ordinary conception of the human mind-body complex.

This allows us to have insight into how the yogi can fuse with the pratyaya in samadhi. Unlike the projection/identification examples given above, depersonalization and its opposite are much stronger mental phenomena because they constitute how the person perceives his or her self in relation to the not self. It is likely that something very similar occurs in samadhi where the yogi loses all sense of identity and fuses with the object of mediation. In other words, this phenomena, the opposite of depersonalization, is likely an actual ingredient of samadhi.

Forms of Consciousness during Sleep and Dreaming
Samadhi is an altered state of consciousness. Period. There is no arguing this point. It is clearly indicated as such in the Yoga Sutras. Samyama in general is a form of self-induced trance. We naturally move through altered states when we sleep. Therefore, it is both reasonable and expected that sleep-related phenomena provide ingredients of samadhi.

Sleep and dreaming are extremely complex phenomenon. If you want to get a sense of the wider issues, I wrote a really long scientific paper about dreaming and you can knock yourself out reading it (see also this scientific review by Mancia). What I do here is regurgitate just one small part of that paper and summarizes the various relationships taken between the dreamer and the dream perceptual environment (which is abbreviated PE in Figure 1). It is in the various relationships between the dreamer and dream environment where we are likely to find the natural origins of samadhi.

One qualifier for this discussion. I am not going to get hung up on the distinction between REM and NREM dreams. While this keeps dream researchers busy and fascinated, the fact is that regular (i.e. nonlucid) dreams occur during both brain states, just with different frequencies (80% for REM; 25-30% for NREM).

The main idea is this. When we are awake, there is always a “you” and a world in which “you” are embedded. We can divide you and the world in any number of ways philosophically, but the observer/observed dualism is, as van der Leeuw (among many, many others) pointed out, the central fact of our experience when we are awake in the physical world (i.e. in the state of paranga cetana).

When we sleep, the observer/observed dichotomy is not so fixed. It spans the four relationships illustrated in the following figure.

Fig 30-1

Figure 1: Forms of relationships between observer (self) and observed (perceptual environment; PE) in sleep.

From left to right these are:

1. An observer, but no observed.  This is called NREM or thought-like mentation.

2. An observer not embedded in any environment, who views things outside his or her self. The external things perceived are also not embedded in any type of environment. This phenomena is generally called hypnagogia (Wikipedia gives a conventional view of it).

3. An observer who is outside of the observed, where the observed is a complex environment. Here the observer views the environment as if from the outside looking in, somewhat like watching a movie. The observer is not embedded in any kind of environment. These are called “dreamer‑as‑observer” dreams.

4. An observer who is embedded in a dream environment.  This is called an “dreamer-as-actor” dream. These are the usual kind of dreams most people think of when the word “dream” is used.

Recognizing these psychological structures is critical for discerning possible ingredients of samadhi.

NREM Mentation and Samadhi
NREM mentation has been well-documented by sleep researchers, notably Allan Hobson (he discussed NREM mentation a lot in this book). I assert that NREM mentation is the baseline state for practicing samyama. In this state there is no perceptual environment at all, only a mind that can talk to itself. For normal people tested in sleep labs, this state lacks the property of lucidity. People who are trained lucid dreamers (like me) can maintain lucidity in this state.  I have been there many times and call it the “void” (go to page 137 of DO_OBE for details).  I would bet an awful lot of money that it is this state that the yogi wishes to achieve practicing the Bahiranga methods. Or said differently, the net result of practicing the Bahiranga methods is the ability to get into this state voluntarily and maintain one’s lucidity. In this sense, the NREM-mentation state is probably a direct ingredient of samadhi, serving as the platform for the entire technique.

Nonlucid Dreams and Samadhi
At the other extreme from NREM mentation are ordinary nonlucid dreams where the dreamer is embedded in a dream environment. The “dreamer-as-actor” states are forms of paranga cetana in which the self becomes absorbed in the ever-shifting distractions of the dream world. It is just more viksepa, and as such, yoga will generally seek to avoid mental states that take this form.

Nevertheless, our capacity to be absorbed in nonlucid dreams is perhaps the most important ingredient of samadhi. The dream researcher Allan Rechtschaffen identified this feature of nonlucid dreams. He called this property, “The single-mindedness and isolation of dreams”:

“By the “single-mindedness” of dreams, I mean the strong tendency for a single train of related thoughts and images to persist over extended periods without disruption or competition from other simultaneous thoughts and images.”

This is a rather profound statement when considered in the context of samadhi. His definition of dreams sounds more like a definition of samadhi. However, Rechtschaffen most definitely did not apply this idea to samadhi nor, to my knowledge, ever even spoke about yoga. He developed this idea to explain how dreaming is different from waking consciousness.

What he is trying to say about dreams is a subtle idea. It seems odd on first hearing. For, as indicated above, in dreams there is constant shifting of attention by the dreamer to the constantly shifting dream environment. In this sense, dreaming certainly cannot be called single-minded. So what was he trying to say? What Rechtschaffen described is the essentially total and complete absorption of the dreamer in the dream.

When we non-lucidly dream we are, with rare exceptions, completely and totally absorbed in the dream. The mind is cut off from anything else but the dream. The mind is cut off from perceptions of the physical world, cut off from voluntary access to the personal memory network. The dreamer may spontaneously remember valid waking facts during a dream, but this is not promiscuous access to the personal memory network. If there was promiscuous access to the personal memory network, the person would realize they were dreaming, and it would be a lucid, not a nonlucid dream. Being cut off from the sensory world and from voluntary memory access during normal nonlucid dreaming means the dreaming person is completely absorbed in the bubble, so to speak, of the dream. In this sense we can speak of “single-mindedness”. It is also a state of isolation because the dreamer is isolated, or trapped, in the “bubble” of the dream.

Thus, although the dreamer and dream environment are both highly dynamic and constantly changing, the dreaming person is “trapped”, isolated, in the dream by being cut off from the senses, and from normal voluntary memory access.

It is the property of single-mindedness and isolation that is of interest to our present discussion. We are not interested per se in Rechtschaffen conception of dreams, interesting and illuminating though it is. The property of total and complete absorption we encounter in nonlucid dreams is, I suggest, co-opted in samadhi. What we do naturally and spontaneously every night when we dream is the foundation of samadhi.

I am suggesting that this same mode of total and complete absorption is co-opted in mediation and adapted to the purposes of yoga to generate the single-mindedness of samadhi. In this sense, ordinary dreaming is perhaps the essential ingredient of samadhi. The single mindedness and isolation of nonlucid dreaming is the natural and spontaneous ability of human psychology that is the root of samadhi. Just as voluntary control of muscles is the natural and spontaneous ability that underlies sports or various arts.

To be crystal clear: I am not saying that samadhi is identical to nonlucid dreaming. I am saying that the property of “single-mindedness and isolation” of nonlucid dreams is the natural psychological function that is intentionally modified by the yoga methods to give rise to samadhi. Yoga exploits this natural property of the mind, and molds it to a completely different end: samadhi.

Quick Summary
Let’s quick summarize our two main points before moving on:

  1. A lucid form of NREM mentation is likely the end state that is sought to be voluntarily entered by the application of the Bahiranga methods. (Item 1 on the list above)

2. The total and complete absorption of the dreamer in a nonlucid dream is likely the natural basis for samadhi. (Item 2 on the list above)

Ok, let’s keep going…

The Other Two
What of hypnagogia and dreamer‑as‑observer dreams? These are clearly variations of the same thing. Both involve a self observing something external. In the case of hypnagogia, the something is the perception of an isolated sensory object lacking a complex spatial environment. In the case of dreamer‑as‑observer dreams, the something becomes a complex spatial environment in which a dream plays out as if watching a movie. Again, these are well-established phenomena in dream research so I am making no attempt here to justify any of this. You can go look it up if it’s unfamiliar to you (my GWS and dreaming paper has many citations).

We can thus imagine a spectrum as shown in Figure 2.

Fig 30-2

Figure 2: A functional sequence of forms of sleep consciousness. The dark circle is the observer and the white circle is the perceptual environment

This is the same idea as Figure 1, but now indicating a relationship between the different states. The fullest and most complex is on the left where the dreamer/observer (grey circle) is embedded (or absorbed) in the dream perceptual environment (white circle). Next comes the dreamer removed from the perceptual environment and viewing it as if from outside. Next we imagine the perceptual environment fragmenting and most of the pieces disappearing. What is left is something that looks like hypnagogia where the observer is observing an isolated something outside the self. Finally, we can imagine all externals disappearing, and we are left with just an observer and no perceptions of any kind, which is NREM mentation.

There are a couple connections to point out here.

Various Levels
First, let’s relate this natural spectrum of sleep states to item 5 on the list: that there are various levels of samprajnata samadhi.  Again, I will not go into the details. You can look at my GWS and dreaming paper or even a book chapter I co-authored with Stephen LaBerge about the varieties of lucid dream experiences to get the details. The main point is that sleep perceptual environments take on a wide variety of different appearances and qualities, ranging from what appear to be normal perceptual environments at one end to completely abstract landscapes similar to what we saw in Chapter 26 at the other end. It is very likely that this is the basis of the distinctions of the four phases of the gunas in yoga. The more normal-appearing dream environments correspond to vicara consciousness (where vitarka consciousness corresponds to being awake in the physical world), and one can imagine any  number of ways to partition the abstract perceptions into the deeper phases of the gunas.

So, the main idea here is that the variety of perceptions that are well-documented to occur in dreams and dream-like states can be construed as ingredients of samadhi, again, with respect to item 5 on our list above.

The Bottom Level
Next, please recall Allan Watts’ quote much used previously. Quoting only the essential bits:

“Life seems to resolve itself down to a tiny germ or nipple of sensitivity…a squiggling little nucleus that is trying to make love to itself and can never quite get there.

The trouble is that I can’t see the back, much less the inside, of my head…Consciousness peers out from a center which it cannot see.”

The form of this experience is like the dreamer-as-observer dream, where there is a bare consciousness observing an environment external to the self. I previously called it “bare naked” pratyak cetana. In this case, the environment is radically abstract. It is a pulsing medium that seems to be the source of all other possible perceptions. One is tempted to associate it to the alinga level of the gunas. For here is revealed the Logos, the Divine Plan.

But it is not a plan in any sense we may give meaning to the term, for it is simply a pulsing something-or-another that seems to simply create. There is no rhyme or reason to the actions of this pulsing and its little spinning “ennie weenies”. They spin and pulse in ways indescribable in words. From this Movement arises all that possibly could be. It is very, very strange. Earlier I said this experience can be construed as the seeing of the very form of the Screen of Consciousness (remember our graphic, please). We are seeing the very stuff of which Plato’s Cave wall, the Screen of Consciousness, is made. It makes no sense to the rational, logical mind. Yet it makes infinite sense because it is not unlike the clouds moving in the sky, the leaves blowing in the wind, the patterns seen in the stars in the night sky, like waves crashing at a beach.

Again, it seems to be the bottom-out level of paranga cetana. We cannot go any deeper. We cannot go into it. All we can do with it, with the Movement, is to keep seeing faces in clouds.

Although we cannot go “into” it, we can go “up” from here: stuff gets more complex and elaborate. Distinct images emerge out of the pulsing something-or-another: hypnagogia. The environments get more complex: more objects, depth, color, form, relationship. Soon the perceptions are fully formed environments. We observe them from the outside looking in. Then we can step into them. We are in a dream. Then we “wake up” and we are here.

To conclude this section, again, I am talking about well-established dream phenomena. It is speculation if these perceptions correspond directly to what is described in the Yoga Sutras as visesa, avisesa, linga, and alinga gunas. It may be the case that the Yoga Sutras describes something more sophisticated that the above. But either way, what is described above are the natural things that happen in our minds every night when we sleep. As such, they must contribute to the natural ingredients of samadhi.

Lucid Altered States
In this section we lump together various altered states of consciousness in which people are lucid. When I say “lucid” it means that consciousness is aware that it is aware and is simultaneously aware of the experiences that are occurring. Just like when we are awake.  I’m not talking about anything mysterious here.  Lucidity is our normal state when we are awake.  There are many altered states where people can be lucid.

I handle this section by presenting four different first-hand experiences, or case studies, that illustrate phenomena that show obvious connections to features of samadhi. Two cases are drug-induced, and two occurred during lucid dreaming. One of them is mine and is from my lucid dream journal. The links to samadhi are explained in the blurbs accompanying each quote.

  1. Alex Grey DMT experience. We saw this in Chapter 27, where Alex Grey described his “Net of Being” DMT experience. The salient point here is that he seems to exactly describe the fusion of the observer and observed that is characteristic of samadhi. It is my interpretation that he spontaneously had this experience. As such, it is similar to the Salvia experiences where a person fuses with the object of perception, to “know by being”.

“A sense of continuum of being that really was very highly networked…a mesh of being. And a kind of identity with that, um, spread my consciousness and being out to a vast expanse in the, ya know, as fast as could be, you were like identified with a consciousness grid that was completely co-extensive with all space.”

He became the “consciousness grid”.  Knowing by being.

  1. A passage from Robert Monroe’s book Ultimate Journeys.  Monroe, who passed away in 1995, is a well-known author on out-of-body experiences. His books have been influential on people interested in OBEs, astral projection, and lucid dreaming. In the following passage he describes becoming a flying eagle. Monroe’s case again illustrates the fusion of the observer and observed. In Alex Grey’s case it occurred under the influence of DMT. In Monroe’s case, it occurred during a lucid dream. But the end result is the same: the sense of self, of “I”, becomes the object of perception. This indicates that the ability is natural, but that it can be evoked artificially with a drug (as Patanjali indicates in aphorism 4.1 –  see Chapter 25) or naturally via the lucid dream state. I note that Monroe did not intentionally enter this state, but did so spontaneously as an element in the ongoing lucid dream of which this passage is a part.  One advantage of Monroe’s description over Grey’s is that there is an actual description of what the fusion experience was like.

“I am floating high over a rugged, snow-capped mountain range, and I can see for hundreds of miles in every direction…and I can see down, down on the ground…beautiful focus, in the most minute detail…the leaves on trees, small animals as they move over the rocks…and I am moving slowly, making a wide easy turn, the standing wave from the mountain ridge offering solid and steady lift under my wings…wings! I turn my head. Extending out from my shoulder is a broad arching wing tapering to a round point, feathers ruffling in the slight turbulence. I roll my head to the left, there is one to match from the other shoulder…I’m not floating, I’m soaring…as a bird, am a bird!..a super sailplane that does exactly what I think! I break the turn, and the feathers on the trailing edge bend down on one side, up on the other, instant ailerons…let’s reach for maximum lift…there it is, more under the left wing than the right, turn into the lift…feel the lift getting stronger and stronger…it’s peaking out, turn and circle…tighten the turn, highest point of lift…must have a fifty-to-one glide ratio…spiral up, tighter and faster…perfect control…air is thinner…keep higher airspeed…wonder where the stall point is…nose, no, head up more, higher angle of attack, more, hey, that’s pretty good! …would never think a bird body could…oops! it does stall…easy to pick up speed again… Yeah! Just fold the wings and doooooown we go! I sigh… reach and stretch…CLICK! I was back in among the sparkling forms, and I closed tightly. The radiation was making me break out in waves exquisitely familiar.”

  1. D.M. Turner’s LSD/DMT Experience. I do not know anything about D.M. Turner having only come across his work when surfing the internet. He has an apparently unpublished book Salvinorin – The Psychedelic Essence of Salvia Divinorum that is posted on the Net in its entirety. I came across one of his experiences that impressed me because of how closely it resembled the yogic view of consciousness. Given my knowledge of psychedelic substances, the huge quantities of drug he ingested and the fact he mixed two wildly potent psychedelic substances borders on humorous (and is certainly alarming!). These factors may be responsible for the extreme nature of what he describes, which is one of the most extreme drug experiences I have ever heard of. The short of it is: what Turner described is identical in many respects to what van der Leeuw described (which we discussed in Chapter 4).

Now, it is fully my contention that van der Leeuw was an expert in Raja Yoga. There is no indication whatsoever that van der Leeuw took drugs. It is thus amazing to me that Turner, through ingestion of extreme amounts of psychedelic drugs could effectively reproduce van der Leeuw’s descriptions of dharma mega samadhi, and even of Kaivalya, although Turner, as you will see, did not interpret his experiences in yogic terms.

The salient points here are that Turner described the “turning inside out” process that van der Leeuw so graphically described, and that I have repeatedly asserted is a first-hand account of dharma mega samadhi. Then, in what appears to be a confused perception of Kaivalya, Turner has the experience of being a seemingly unlimited number of what he called his “possible lives”. It is my suspicion that he is in fact describing Kaivalya, where one becomes simultaneously all that is. However, Turner does not seem to have the vocabulary, training, or background to interpret his experience in these terms, and so interprets this as alternative versions of himself. When you think about it, his interpretation is not too far off the mark anyway. Further he describes the spherical sense of a world with nothing outside of it that van der Leeuw described.   My take-away from Turner’s experience is that, through extreme drug ingestion, he “whacked” himself clear into Kaivalya. In the next chapter, I will give a more precise meaning to the term “whacked” (hint for now: perturbation).

Let me make this perfectly clear: I DO NOT ADVOCATE ANYONE DO THIS. I am not advocating the use of drugs for this purpose. We discussed this topic already and I have expressed my opinion that drugs, generally speaking, are no more and no less than training wheels by which to enter the inner realms. In the long run they defeat the purpose. In short: DRUGS ARE BAD, MKAY. But what is of interest in our present context is the overwhelming similarity between Turner’s and van der Leeuw’s descriptions. To me, this points to a common substrate underlying their experiences. In my mind it strongly supports the validity of what is described in the Yoga Sutras. (Note: I have condensed this. Turner’s entire journal entry is here).

“My next significant journey involved smoking 750 mcg. of Salvinorin about 6 hours after taking 600 mcg. of LSD [50 micrograms is a usual dose of LSD! He took 12X the usual dose! -Don] ….All of a sudden there was a sensation that the universe began rotating on an axis that was perpendicular to its normal planes of rotation…There was also the sensation that time had stopped, that everything had stopped revolving around its axis and had slowly begun to revolve in the opposite direction. I then had a sensation where I could see around the edge of “existence,” and saw an opposite. or negative image, of everything in this sphere of existence.”

“… As this happened the whole concept of my existence as a particular person seemed quite ludicrous and artificial. With this perception it seemed as though the universe had collapsed and turned inside out. And the concept that I had an identity as a particular human being, or even that “I” existed, was entirely pulled out from beneath my feet…”

“Next I found myself in what I can only describe as a black hole of identity. …What I experienced was like a type of gravity which held my being so strongly that it could not escape to form an identity. I felt as though I were within a dimensionless [Remember our discussion of delta? -Don] spherical, enclosed universe, perhaps something similar to Einstein’s perception of curved space-time. Within this closed universe it seemed that all forces, such as gravity and centrifugal force, were somehow reversed and opposed to how they normally function. A million impossibilities seemed to exist. … And it seemed that time was on a revolving or repeating trajectory. Within the closed sphere, millions of concentric gears were spinning around and through each other in every which direction.”

“One of the most profound perceptions that I had was of seeing my life from millions of different angles. It seemed that the life I had led was like a drawing etched into the multi-dimensional fabric of space-time, every action I’ve taken and thought I have had forming a turn or a branch in this complex carving. What I experienced while in this state was millions of other possible lives of my person. For every decision I’ve made in life, a duplicate of myself is formed in nonexistence that chose the opposite of the decision I made. While in this bizarre state of mind, or non-existence, I was simultaneously experiencing these millions of alternate persona, and with vivid recollection of all that had transpired in their oppositely directed lives.”

“As time continued, however, I noticed the force within the black hole starting to subside. By the time I knew I would be returning to my body again, and was able to open my eyes and look at the clock, approximately two hours had passed.”


  1. My lucid dream experience of dissolving the pratyaya. (64th projection; original is 2870 words; the following is about 1/6th of the entire recorded experience.). We discussed in Chapter 10 about pratiprasava, the dive through consciousness. There it was described how samadhi causes the pratyaya to “disappear” (by nirodha parinama as discussed in the next Chapter) and by this action, it propels the yogi to a higher state of consciousness (or deeper layer of the gunas).

In the following lucid dream, I had an experience that I now interpret as an ingredient of samadhi. It is not samadhi. I was not in samadhi. I was lucid dreaming. But I had, as one small part in a rather long and rich lucid dream, an experience that I now interpret as something akin to Taimni’s idea of how the pratyaya is dissolved in samadhi, leading to the nir- forms of samadhi (i.e. nirvitarka, nirvicara, etc.).

We can interpret my lucid dream perceptual environment as the analog of a pratyaya. In this experience, I somehow accidentally found myself in a state where I saw the “pieces”, “components”—I don’t know what term to use—but I saw what the pratyaya was made of. Whatever it was, my current best interpretation is in terms of dissolving the pratyaya.  It is certainly not identical, but I would consider it to be an ingredient. Whatever happened must be a phenomenon similar to what occurs in samprajnata samadhi that leads to the asamprajnata form of samadhi.

“Went to bed about 5:00 AM. I fell asleep almost imme­di­ately. Next thing I knew I was walking thru a dance club…The place was large and dark, and there was a huge dance floor filled with very “underground” looking people (mohawks, tattoos, leather, etc.). I was not lucid at this point, but I had a very strong feeling that something was up. I walked off of the dance floor into another room that was a bar. Sitting at the bar was my good friend X…When I saw X it dawned on me – I was in the dream world! And also, at this realization, I most definitely experienced the “head-rush” feeling. My lucidity was incredible. Everything was absolutely clear and vivid. I felt exactly like I do when I’m awake.”

“Once my lucidity clicked in though, I became very aware of my potential to fade out so I moved very slowly and carefully.  [Me and X interacted]…Then I felt myself begin to fade out. I grabbed X and said, “Uh oh! Look, X! I’m gonna disappear right before your eyes, then you’ll know that this is a dream!” And I was gone.”

“I was standing outside of an unfamiliar house. It was night time outside and there was a light on inside the house. Through the window I thought I saw three women, but, when I looked away and then back again, I saw an old woman yelling at two younger girls. I began to walk down the block away from the house. I faded again.”

“I seemed to now be floating in the void. However, there were what seemed to be colored triangles moving around, crossing and spinning over one another making distinctly geometric pat­terns in front of me. The colors were mainly a yellowish green with red, orange, and pink hues and they had the texture of clear and smoky, but smooth glass. “This is a weird view of the void,” I thought to myself. I starred at these patterns won­der­ing what the hell I was looking at. I began to focus harder and harder on these patterns, trying to discern some detail in them. Then, as I was focusing, the most incredible thing happened. I watched these patterns “solidify” and transform into the scene on the dance floor of the club I had just left. The spinning triangles were actually the dancing people in the club! I was amazed. I relaxed my focus and the scene faded back to the spinning triangles. I was thinking, “Wow! This is amazing!” I tightened my focus again and the triangles again transformed into the dancers on the dance floor. This time I tightened my focus so much that the entire bar scene faded in around me! I was back in the bar again! [A whole bunch more stuff happened], then…This time I was awake for real. I looked at the clock. It was 6:00 AM. Only an hour had passed…”

This wraps up our discussion of possible ingredients of samadhi. In the next chapter we will summarize the above, and then discuss how the ingredients might be combined into a recipe for samadhi.

See you in Chapter 31.


4 thoughts on “The Yogic View of Consciousness 30: The Ingredients of Samadhi

  1. Lots of speculations about samadhi. Nothing wrong with pleasant dreams and the emotions that may arise within humans. Revelations coming from charismatic leaders have attracted many spiritual believers and cult followers.

    So many contradictory interpretations of samadhi and of what could be hallucinations, dreams, and imaginations.

    I have written about the conflicts and contradictions of the Hindu and Buddhist interpretations of samadhi here

    A closer study of “outsider” interpretations of samadhi, rather than settling on own belief or wish of what it may be, ought to give us pause before bowing to the human speculations and contradictions with the interpretations of samadhi.

    • Hi Scott. Thanks for leaving a comment. A couple replies. 1. This is a prelude. Actual samadhi will be described next time. 2. One must use the Yoga Sutras as a guide when discussing samadhi, at least if one takes a Patanjalian approach (to use the term in your article), as I do here.

      I’ve come up with a new way to understand samadhi that I will express in Chapter 31 when I compare it to a general purpose computer. Additionally, samadhi is not one thing. It’s kind of like using the word “tennis”. Tennis is not one thing either. There is the game, its rules, its accoutrements (rackets, balls court, etc), technique, strategy, and so on. Same with “samadhi”. It is a complex thing with rules, strategy, technique, multiple outcomes, and so on, which I discuss next time.

      I will look forward to hearing your thoughts to the next chapter when I take the ingredients I described here and cook them together into a recipe for samadhi. Again, thanks for popping in!

      Best wishes,


      • Thanks for your prompt response, Don. Are your series of “chapter” posts from an existing or forthcoming book? Or, why do you refer to your posts as “Chapters”? I see the series of numbers up top the post.

        Yes, when examining the definitions or explanations of samadhi I did refer to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. The trouble is “which” Sutras are we to use and/or make our interpretations from? The Sutras we have handed down to us are based on commentaries (interpretations) of the original text. Then they get translated, further interpreted and so on.

        Read my post The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Critical Biography, where I discuss further and provide references to source materials for further investigations:

        Your comparison of samadhi to tennis is not a fair one. Tennis is a game that can be seen, played on a physical court, occurs in the real not imaginary world (unless of course people want to image, dream, or hallucinate about tennis). Yes, there’s a strategy to tennis, but that is subjective, interpretative and the results of tennis strategy can be seen in terms of wins, losses, or whatever objective measures one chooses to use when observing or playing the game of tennis.

        Anyway, I’ll look for your next chapter to see how you “cook” the ingredients of samadhi.

      • Hi Scott. Yes, I am calling the Yogic View of Consciousness posts “chapters” because they’ll be compiled and released (very soon!) as a book.

        There are two hurdles I see with the Yoga Sutras: (1) getting good translations from Sanskrit to English, and (2) figuring out what all the terminology means. (1) has been solved for the most part. (2) is still an issue. From the translations, we can see that the Yoga Sutras are highly systematic and make sense as a “user’s manual”, I don’t think “which” aphorisms is an issue.

        The translations vary widely. I’ll have an introduction in YVC the book where I explain that one of my main intentions is to continue with the effort of trying to understand the meaning of the terminology used in the Yoga Sutras. The commentaries help, and there is a systematic interpretation of them. The real limit is the scope of our culture’s understanding of reality in general. I contend WE are the barbarians, and only slowly rediscovering what is recorded in the Yoga Sutras.

        As to subjective/objective, you and I have gone round on that before, so no need to rehash. Just to repeat: accepting the concept of “objectivity” is too simple. You are not accounting for Idealist’s views like say, Kant. You have to remember: everything you sense, know, think, perceive, feel, etc occurs in your mind. Therefore, to an idealist, the most objective thing there is is the mind.

        Anyway, will look forward to hearing your thoughts about the next chapter! Take care, Scott!

        Best wishes,


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